NBA Adjusted Multiple Trade Rules in July

Salary cap guru Eric Pincus breaks down and explains the NBA’s latest rule changes regarding trades.

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Updated 12 months ago on
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Declaring this season “now or never” for Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers in his recent article, ESPN’s Zach Lowe included an interesting aside.

“The league quietly tweaked trade rules over the summer so that teams could simultaneously owe two picks with ‘two years after’ language attached. In the past, a team could owe only one such pick,” Lowe wrote.

The Clippers currently owe their 2017 first-rounder to the Toronto Raptors but the pick is lottery protected through 2019, after which it converts to a pair of second-rounders in 2020 and 2021.

Los Angeles also owes the Boston Celtics a first, but under the Stepien rule, cannot trade future firsts in consecutive years. Therefore the pick won’t go to the Celtics until two drafts following the obligation to the Raptors is met.

Per Lowe’s report, the Clippers can also deal their 2021 first with a similar two-years after protection, which wouldn’t have been allowed prior to this summer.

Basketball Insiders obtained the memo that was sent out to teams, indicating rule changes effective this past July 7.

In addition to the two-years-after change, the NBA adjusted both the seven-year rule and the ability for teams to trade another team’s pick with protections.

Seven-Year Rule

The seven-year rule prohibits teams from dealing future picks beyond the next seven drafts following the trade.

The adjustment made allows franchises to add protection to that final year, which was previously off limits. For instance, a team can now structure a deal to convert the first-round obligation to a second-rounder in the seventh year based on protections met in that final season.

In the past, a team could protect a first-rounder through the sixth year.

Sticking with the Clippers, if the team dealt its 2021 first, it could be lottery protected through 2023, converting to a 2023 second if the team is in the top-14 for each of those three years (also subject to the two-year after rule in relation to the Boston trade).

Under the previous rule, the Clippers would be able to protect their 2021 pick through 2022, after which it could convert to a 2023 second-rounder.

Regardless, the seven-year limit remains in force. It’s the timing of potential protections that has changed.

Protecting Another Team’s Pick

Before July 7, teams were unable to trade away another team’s pick with protections. That rule has changed but only if that pick was previously acquired unconditionally.

For example, the Cleveland Cavaliers will get the Minnesota Timberwolves second-rounder in 2019, unprotected.

Now, the Cavaliers can trade that pick away to another team, with say a top-55 protection. Or Cleveland can send it to two different teams — to one if it’s in the 31-45 range, the other if it’s 46-60.

In the past, none of the above was legal.

The Cavs will also get a second-rounder in 2020 from the Portland Trail Blazers, provided it’s in the 56-60 range. Cleveland can trade that pick away outright to another team but not with additional protections under the rule adjustment since they don’t own it unconditionally.

The change also applies to first-rounders. Teams can use the standard protections, including converting the obligation to a second-rounder if certain conditions are met.

Another item in the NBA’s July memo set the payment schedule for money owed to traded players by their prior team. Franchises are obligated to pay the player their salary through the day of a trade. The incoming team is responsible for compensating the player for the first day following the deal. If, however, the player suits up on the actual day of the trade, the new team is responsible for the salary starting on that same day.

The memo sets a default payment schedule, for any money owed by the team trading the player away, to four equal payments on the last days of December, March, June and September, provided the player is dealt on or before December 15.

If dealt between December 15 and the trade deadline, the obligations are paid in three equal payments on the last days of March, June and September.

This last item is a change to the NBA’s by-laws, while the previous adjustments apply to the league’s operations manual.

Understanding the Quincy Acy D-League Trade

On Monday, the Los Angeles D-Fenders made what seemed like a strange trade, claiming Quincy Acy off waivers and then immediately trading him to the Texas Legends.

The rules of the NBA Development League differ significantly from the NBA, where the notion of claiming and immediately trading a player is a non-starter.

In the NBA, if a player is claimed off waivers during the season, they cannot be dealt for 30 days. If they’re claimed over the summer, the trade restriction lasts until 30 days into the following season.

That same restriction doesn’t exist in the D-League.

With their point-guard core decimated with injury, the Dallas Mavericks cut Acy on November 17, despite his $1.1 million guaranteed contract, to make room for Jonathan Gibson.

Acy entered the D-League’s free agent pool, where he then became available for a waiver claim. The D-Fenders had top priority to make a claim, but were set to lose that position to the Erie BayHawks and Long Island Nets.

When Development League teams have a player called up to the NBA, they jump to the top of the waiver priority list. The BayHawks lost Anthony Brown, the top overall pick in the D-League draft, to the New Orleans Pelicans. The Nets lost Yogi Ferrell to their parent franchise, the Brooklyn Nets.

Per General Manager Nick Mazzella, who spoke to Basketball Insiders about the trade, the D-Fenders (7-2) were pleased with their roster, anticipating the return of former Los Angeles Clippers forward (and D-League center) Jeff Ayres, who rejoined the team on Thursday.

The D-Fenders essentially traded their waiver priority, before they dropped down to third, picking up Acy on behalf of the Mavericks’ affiliate franchise.

In return, the D-Fenders added on a 2017 first-rounder, along with the rights to small forward Jamil Wilson. Wilson played with the Lakers’ summer league squad but is currently playing for Auxilium Torino in Italy. Los Angeles also gave up a 2017 third-rounder in the deal.

Now, the D-Fenders will have two first-round picks in next year’s draft but if they lose a key player to a call-up or buyout during the current campaign, they can use one of those picks as a trade asset.

Meanwhile, the Mavericks have reestablished ties to Acy, who helped the Legends to a 110-107 win on Friday over the Oklahoma City Blue.

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Eric Pincus is a Senior Writer for Basketball Insiders, with a focus on the business side of the game.

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